After that debacle against the New Jersey Devils, I said that I wanted to see the Hurricanes put forth a good effort in their last three games of the season and they certainly did that tonight in a 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators. This was far from the best game that the Hurricanes have played because they had more than a few defensive slip-ups, got into penalty trouble and had to rely a bit on Cam Ward to bail them out of some tough situations.
The Hurricanes also made some good adjustments in the second period and did a much better job of limiting Ottawa's scoring chances after that. They kept a lot of the Senators shots to the outside and were doing their best to lighten the workload on Ward and it was effective for awhile. Ward still had to make a lot of big saves to keep the Hurricanes on top, but the volume of chances he saw in the second and third period wasn't nearly as hectic as the onslaught he faced in the first period, at least while the Canes were playing at even strength. All hell broke loose when the Sens pulled their goalie.
Anyway, this was a nice road win for the Hurricanes. They got a few lucky bounces, most notably on Brandon Sutter's goal, but they weren't terribly outplayed by the Senators at even strength and did a fine job of protecting their lead, something they have struggled mightily with throughout the season. We also got a possible glimpse into next season with some new defense pairings.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Carolina's chances are in red, Ottawa's are in white
Three of Ottawa's registered "even strength" chances came when they were playing with an empty net, so chances were even at five-on-five when you factor that in. Like I said, Carolina defended Ottawa well after getting hammered in the first period but they weren't generating much offense of their own. That's partially because they scored on their first chance of the second period and were playing more conservative after that. They did have a few very good opportunities in the beginning stages of the third, though. Patrick Dwyer nearly had a tap-in goal on a great feed from Justin Faulk but Craig Anderson got over in time to make the save.
Neither team's powerplay was good even though Carolina scored on theirs. Both teams gave up two shorthanded chances and Ottawa had one good powerplay in the first period and nothing after that. The Sens were technically the "better" team at even strength when going by the shots and scoring chances, but they had a few terrible bounces which they couldn't seem to come back from. The two biggest errors was Anderson not being able to handle Sutter's hot and having it land in the back of the net and Chris Neil's goal in the second period being waived off because he directed it in with his elbow. I don't have my NHL rule-book handy but apparently you can't do that. Speaking of Neil, he took a couple of interference penalties in the third period, only one of which put his team short-handed thanks to Bryan Allen, and the Senators actually produced more shorthanded chances than they did on their final powerplay. I think that should tell you how strange of a game this was.
Individual Scoring Chances
Best EV Forwards: Tuomo Ruutu, Tim Brent & Jeff Skinner +2
Worst EV Forward: Drayson Bowman -4
Best EV Defensemen: Tim Gleason & Justin Faulk +2
Worst EV Defensemen: Joni Pitkanen & Jamie McBain -2
Muller shook things up early and paired Tim Gleason with Justin Faulk during the first period and the results were very good. These two were extremely effective at moving the puck into the Ottawa zone and giving the forwards a better opportunity to create scoring chances. As a result, they spent less time in their own end and gave up fewer chances. The biggest flaw of the Gleason/Allen defense pairing was that neither are very good puck movers and they would always rely on a forward to carry the puck out, which resulted in bad things a lot of times. With Faulk already being an excellent puck-mover, Gleason doesn't have to be relied on for this so he can focus on playing defense. Faulk also benefits from this because he is playing with a more sturdy defensive partner and can be more aggressive in the offensive zone than he can when playing with Jay Harrison. These two were the best players for Carolina not named Cam Ward. HOWEVER, they spent most of their time against Ottawa's third line so let's not overract after one good game.
The pairing who were used against Ottawa's top line was Joni Pitkanen and Jamie McBain, who gave up a ton of scoring chances tonight. You know what you are going to get with this defense pairing, and that's a duo who can be lethal offensively but their over-aggressive play can lead to bad things. Case and point, both Pitkanen and McBain had a few bad pinches which led to odd-man rushes for Ottawa. Muller still wants to protect Faulk, and I understand that but I would not be very comfortable with these two going against opposing top-lines every night.
Both Ruutu and Skinner were great at even strength and on the powerplay. The odd thing is that their usual center, Jokinen, put up much worse numbers despite playing most of his even strength ice time with Skinner & Ruutu. Skinner makes sense because he was used on a few different lines and was effective on just about all of them as he led the team in scoring chances yet again. Ruutu also seemed to play better away from Jokinen but he played fewer minutes.
We also saw this effect on Eric Staal's line as the captain and Chad LaRose were both very good when playing together, but Jiri Tlusty seemed to struggle when he was away from his usual linemates. Staal didn't play THAT many more minutes than Tlusty at even strength so it's a little interesting to see such a big difference in the numbers.
I can, however, understand why Drayson Bowman's numbers are a lot worse than his usual linemates, because he was used on a couple different lines tonight and couldn't seem to get anything going at all. He had zero shots on goal, was on ice for 5 Ottawa chances and the only Carolina chance he was on ice for was Sutter's goal. Speaking of which, that last statement is also true for Sutter but he played much better defensively and was a workhorse on the penalty kill.
The fourth line actually had a good game and Brent definitely had one of his better performances of the season. He helped out the team a lot by making solid reads in the neutral zone to keep the play in Ottawa's end for most of the third period and it led to a couple of good chances, the most dangerous of which being Dwyer's flurry in the third period.
Bryan Allen and Jay Harrison ended up playing the fewest minutes at even strength among defensemen but they started ten of their shifts in the defensive zone. Allen didn't have any offensive zone starts and was only outchanced by one while Harrison actually outchanced his competition. This was while spending 1/3 of their ice time against Daniel Alfredsson's line, too.
Head-to-head at five-on-five
- There weren't too many noticeable matchups with the defensemen as each pairing seemed to get some time against Ottawa's top three lines. Pitkanen & McBain did play a lot against Spezza's line, though and the results weren't terrible.
- Faulk/Gleason had a lot of trouble with the Sens' top line but they did well against everyone else. Faulk was the only player who was able to outchance Alfredsson and these two were the only unit that did well against that line in general. They also took care of their main matchup, which was the Sens third line.
- Erik Karlsson seemed to have his way with us tonight, and he did it while playing over 30 minutes with two different partners. I seriously can not believe that he is only 21.
- The Canes had a very favorable matchup against Jared Cowen & Matt Gilroy and just about every player took advantage of those two when they were on the ice.
- Chris Phillips won all but one of his matchups.
Senators Scoring Chances
Best EV Forward: Daniel Alfredsson +6
Best EV Defenseman: Chris Phillips +5
Worst EV Forward: Erik Conrdra -3
Worst EV Defenseman: Matt Gilroy -3
|CAR||2||18:28||Sutter - GOAL||6||16||21||28||30||39||2||15||22||25||41||97||5v5|
|CAR||2||2:06||Ruutu - GOAL||4||15||25||30||36||53||2||17||23||41||42||5v4|
|OTT||3||0:13||Spezza - GOAL EN||4||12||19||25||30||59||4||9||11||14||19||65||5v5|